The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in the March 2018 quarter, down from 4.5 percent last quarter, Stats NZ said.
This is the fifth consecutive quarter the unemployment rate has fallen and is the lowest rate since the December 2008 quarter, when it was also 4.4 percent.
“While most New Zealanders are familiar with the unemployment rate, the underutilisation rate is equally as important,” labour market and household statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said.
“It provides a broader picture of untapped capacity in the labour market.”
The seasonally adjusted underutilisation rate fell to 11.9 percent, down from 12.2 percent in the December 2017 quarter. There were almost 340,000 people with the desire and potential to work more, though this was 5,000 fewer than in the December 2017 quarter.
“Underutilisation includes people who have a job but want to work more hours, or are available to work but aren’t looking, or are looking for work but aren’t available to start within the next month,” Mr Attewell said.
“For example, a mum or dad looking to start work once their child begins school in the coming months, or someone who has just finished high school but hasn’t started looking for a job.”
The fall in underutilisation mainly reflects 9,000 fewer people being underemployed, which included 8,000 fewer women. People who are underemployed are those in part-time employment who want to, and are available to, work more hours. With fewer underemployed women, the underutilisation rate for women fell to 14.6 percent (from 15.2 percent) in the March 2018 quarter.
In the March 2018 quarter, the unemployment rate for men fell to 3.9 percent, while that for women fell to 4.9 percent. This compares with 4.0 percent and 5.0 percent in the December 2017 quarter, respectively.
For Māori, the unemployment rate fell to 9.6 percent, down from 10.4 percent a year ago, while the underutilisation rate for Māori fell to 20.8 percent, down from 22.2 percent in the March 2017 quarter.
In the March 2018 quarter, the seasonally adjusted rate for young people (15–24 years) not in employment, education, or training (NEET) rose to 12.4 percent, up from 11.8 percent in the December 2017 quarter.
The labour force participation rate fell to 70.8 percent in the latest quarter, down from 70.9 percent.
The employment rate was unchanged (67.7 percent), as it kept pace with growth in the working-age population. Women were at their highest-ever rate of employment (62.6 percent).
In the March 2018 quarter, employment rose 0.6 percent, the majority of which came from more women (up 0.8 percent) than men (up 0.4 percent) gaining employment. Annually, employment increased 3.1 percent, which was also driven by women (up 3.7 percent) when compared with men (up 2.6 percent).
Filled jobs, as measured by the quarterly employment survey (QES), were up 22,400 for the year. The majority of these jobs were in the professional, scientific, technical, administrative, and support services, and the retail trade industries. These two industries, along with accommodation, were also the key contributors to employment growth, as measured by the household labour force survey.
Average total weekly earnings for full-time equivalent employees in the QES increased 3.9 percent on an annual basis, to $1,204.85. This is the largest annual increase in weekly wages since the September 2011 quarter.
The labour cost index (LCI) increased 1.8 percent in the year to the March 2018 quarter, the same increase as in the year to the December 2017 quarter.
Annual wage growth in the LCI predominantly came from the health care and social assistance, and the education and training, industries. Had the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 not come into effect, LCI wages and salaries would have increased 1.6 percent in the year to the March 2018 quarter.
Source: Stats NZ